If you're interested in creating a garden like the one pictured above, here is a key with plant suggestions. 
My design and planting suggestions and replacements are added to it. 

The center structure can be a pergola, deck, patio, a small summer house or gazebo. Screens are optional. I use sections of fencing, or create the gardens in areas enclosed with fences and trellises. I change out loud, crunchy slippery gravel paths with natural and painted cedar pathway sections, "stomp stones" or wide cedar planks.


A. Hydrangea

**I choose tree form Rose of Sharon. Deep rose or blue-purple color, double flower.
D. Japanese Pachysandra ground cover. 

**I choose the adorable evergreen mounds of "Elijah Blue" Fescue grass, or any color of creeping phlox.
G. Ornamental grass - Hakonechloa. Yellow and green foliage.

H. Bellflowers

B. Hosta - these come in lots of sizes and beautiful colorings. My favorite variety is "Patriot". E. Lamb's Ear.
**I choose the airy silver mound artemesia.
I. Shrub Rose
** I choose Cabbage or Peace Roses
C. French Lilac - White or a deep, dark Pink F. Wintercreeper
**I choose dwarf spreading juniper.
J. Daisies. Any color and variety you like. Choose one that grows to less than 2 ft. tall.

The Garden's Environment and Intent

A natural or  human-made serene environment in our gardens can help us to connect with the rest of the world, or retreat from it for a while, and help us find balance, serenity and peace. This type of space is beautiful and soothing, whether you practice yoga or not. There are many nooks and crannies in my landscape that reflect my need for quiet, peace and mindfulness. Some of my very best ideas and projects came into being while sitting in thee quiet spaces. I use these spaces for reflection mostly in the morning for inspiration before I get cracking in the garden, and early evening, when I sit still and celebrate my good work in the garden and dream up new ideas. Which may or may not work.

You can create a unique garden retreat that combines some principles of traditional Hindu philosophy of architecture, space and design. Combining the elements of earth, water, fire, air and space into a special, personalized retreat, encourages relaxation among beauty, fragrances, and wild things to achieve tranquility and mindfulness.  This is a beautiful space whether you practice yoga or not. Plants, decorative and structural objects and ornaments combine in the garden to achieve a daily respite from the realities of a challenging world, and can kickstart your creativity and nurture your inner muse. Practice your yoga here in peace and take in the fragrances and sounds of birdsong.

Here are some ideas for creating your space, and photos of gardens, ornaments and decor to help you achieve it. These ideas are quite similar n concept to the Meditation, Zen, Serenity and Prayer Garden Designs featured on this site that you can also visit. Create a garden as unique as you are, using the elements that fit in with your emotional and psychic needs.

Some of the ideas may or may not work for you, depending upon garden size and budget constraints, but you can personalize it with imagination, upcycling, recycling, and intent, and using the right plants. The plants you grow in this garden are important and have a purpose. Whether it's just their beauty and fragrance or their symbolism, as in Saints Gardens and Mary Gardens. I know I have no room for, and can't budget a pergola for vines, unless I make or adopt a discaded one. So I create or use another structure in my space. Like arbors, upcycled old decorative fencing and trellises. I also use decorative, weatherproof collectibles and pottery from my home to make it personal and add interest. Make the garden an extension of You and your creativity.

Air and Movement - Delicate branches, stems, rain chains, and windchimes. 

The Earth element - Suggested Plantings For Buddhist, Hindu, Meditation and Zen Garden Spaces 
 - Dwarf Ornamentals, Fragrant Shrubs and Herbs, In-ground or in Decorative, Space-Saving and Moveable Pots
(As a fickle gardener, I almost always choose pots, except for ground covers and bulbs)

Stones, wooden walkways, driftwood, branches and trees add the grounding Earth element.

Shrubs - Chosen for shape, growth habit, and  fragrance. 
Dwarf potted fruit shrubs look beautiful. A feast for the eyes and tastebuds. 
Grow enough to share with the birds.

Dwarf Bamboo
Jade plants
Dwarf "Color Guard" Yucca
Dwarf Cedar and Juniper
Dwarf Papyrus
Dwarf Elderberry
"Firepower" Nandina
Hardy Camellia
Hardy Magnolia
Dwarf white or Purple Mulberry
Dwarf Japanese Honeyberry
Dwarf Blueberry
Dwarf Raspberry
Dwarf Blackberry

Dwarf Trees - Ornamental and Edibles

Chinese Feather Tree
Weeping Cedar
Japanese Snow Fountain
Japanese Weeping Cherry
Japanese Maples
Ornamental Plum
Weeping Redbud
Meyer Lemon
Persian Lime
Fig Trees
Mandarin Orange

Honeysuckle (Trellised or along arches or walls)
Climbing roses
Trumpet Flower

Plants, Bulbs and Ornamental Grasses
Lilies - I use bright reds, oranges, whites and yellows in my Zen Buddhist garden.
Along with gorgeous Peonies, I grow Irises, Chrysanthemums in reds, oranges and white, Bee Balm, "Butter Rum" Coreopsis, Japanese Blood Grass, Blue Arrow Reed Grass, Yucca, Fountain Grasses

And add a little Whimsy and Decorative pieces

Water, Air and Movement - Incorporate water features.

These can be small, and you don't have to dig a pond. . Unless you want to. Use ornamental bowls or urns with a floating water lily, or a floating solar fountain added. I have many birdbaths throughout my gardens that are bird and pollinator habitats. 

I use solar cascading fountains here and there, that add the sound of water and look pretty when water cascades from the pitcher down through the bowls. 

The bubbling sound from the floating fountains in the bird baths is soothing, and the birds love them. I especially like to float these in big vintage painted enamelware bowls with large, soft foam lotus/water lilies.

Birds and other pollinators stop by the bird baths and fountains to drink or for a quick bath. 

*Add a rock inside large or deep bowls so that the baby birds and bees have a ledge or a place to grasp to get out of the bowl if they accidentally fall in and their wings get wet. I learned that one the hard way. I lay some stones under the flowers and fountain.

Rain chains hung from tree branches can also be used to add water sound and ornamental height. They look and sound pretty when the rainwater falls into the cups that fill and then spill into each other, and then spill into an area of the garden i want to water. I keep a baby dragon in one of the bird cages. I am adding several ornamental bamboo bird cages, as well.


A floating solar lily pad-shaped fountain i use in my birdbaths and big bowls. 

They look lovely in ponds, as well. They only sprinkle when sun hits them directly, but they look awesome anyway just floating along in the water, nudged by breezes. 

They're not expensive and you can find them for less than $10 each. They last a long time. The lily pad around the solar fountain is removable, and it's made of very flexible rubber, not hard plastic, so it can be placed or removed easily and has give if it floats into the edges of a water feature.

The Buddha

There are many representations of The Buddha, and I have several in different sizes. From focal point, to sitting in my raised planters, they're beautiful and meditative. They reside in my Asian and Zen Gardens, and Bird Habitat.

A Serene Seating Area Is Essential

A seating area in your retreat is very important. It can be tailored just for one, or a few. It can be a rock, a stump, or a cusion, or benches. You don't want to give this space a look of gathering, or feel as though you're welcoming groups for entertaining. It's your sacred retreat. Similar to creating a Prayer Garden, Tea Garden Retreat or Secret Garden. Seating for no more than 2-4 persons is adequate in your personal space. I use tall trellises for a feeling of enclosure. These trellises will be covered with the newly-planted "Joseph's Coat" climbing roses in summer. The blooms are shades of red, orange, pink and yellow.

I like to use bamboo benches in certain areas of the garden, along with a small bistro set or iron loveseat bench to designated seating areas. I don't like to speak when I sit in these spaces. Except to my dog and St. Francis, patron saint of gardens and wildlife. I have a few well-placed seating areas just for me and perhaps one other person. I locate one across from a bird feeder and birdbaths. My favorite time for hearing birdsong is about an hour before dusk, when the birds come to eat, splash around, and sing. And that's where i'll quietly perch myself to unwind. I know the hummers visit my honeysuckles, Butterfly Bushes, Rose of Sharons and Giant Hibiscus around the same time in another area. There's a seat for me there, too. I think these natural benches are perfect for a yoga/meditation space.

Design your space to attract good Karma and and give thanks to Mother Nature or personal deities in a way that brings you joy. Set up your seating areas, choose and plant the plants around it, distribute your decorative items, find a focal point, and focus on filling that area with things you love best. If you practice yoga, keep a mat and your favorite affirmations or music handy somewhere in your space. Light the incense for day or night. All of these rituals, when done daily, can be a part of the healing and connection your garden is designed to provide.

Use small tables or plant stands to hold a teapot and teacup or your cocktails. Place fragrant cut flowers in bowls or small vases here and there. An outdoor stool or little ottomans are another good choice. Put your feet up, and empty your mind of non-productive or destructive thoughts.

Meditate or pray, if you wish. You'll feel better and sleep better. I've actually fallen asleep while sitting out there in the evenings with my spiced Chai. I live in a city, but my neighborhood and space are very tranquil and quiet. I disturb no one and no one disturbs me while I'm in my sacred space.

Do not put a TV anywhere within this space. 
Rely on silence or nature's sounds.
Classical, Chant, Celtic and instrumental World Music sound beautiful with headphones on or playing softly from a portable disc player. If you have a covered deck, summer house structure, terrace or patio and electrical service outdoors, install outdoor recessed speakers and listen to soft and low-volume sounds and sweet voices, and music piping from your sindoor sound system. Keep a player and discs outdoors so that you can listen any time. If you have neighbors close by, use headphones or listen in the daytime or earlier in the evening. Disturbing the neighbors who are also at rest is guaranteed not to bring you the serenity and peace you wish for.

The Fire Element
Let There Be Light - Subtle light.

Landscape and tree lighting, fireplaces, firepits and outdoor cooking elements all represent fire. The best colors for plants in this space are warm reds, dark and bright oranges and deep yellows.

The lantern above is a large solar lantern hung on a shepherd's hook, which the clematis vines enjoy greatly.

Do have the glow of lights around the seating areas for safety, especially if you have a pond, or use a lot of stones and gravel in your design that can trip you up in the dark. Floating candles in pretty bowls or fountains, candles on little tables, among your plants or hanging in jars, small, warm white solar fairy light strings look beautiful. Reminds me of fireflies and starlight. I have many little areas of solar lights putting out a soft glow, as well as solar path lights to keep me from taking a header while wandering around aimlessly in the gardens. Do not use large bulbs, set your lights to blink, or use colored lights. That's too distracting. Use solar lights as uplighting special decor or for showing off  your best specimen plants, and hidden areas with a subtle glow.

Small tabletop or short oil-fired ornamental metalwork tiki torches placed in the soil are very pretty in the garden, as well. I have staggered sizes and types. There are some pretty copper and brass torches that add a lot of style and class.

However you decide to decorate your space, personalize it to reflect You.

Article and Garden Photos:
2020 Mary Hyland
All rights reserved

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